joyful because you belong

“Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful! Let everyone know how gentle you are. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him.Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.”

Philippians 4:4-7

Hello there, dear readers, I decided to take a break off and on during the summer. I love writing, but with seminary, I write a lot of papers, and some days need to rest my brain. I am so excited because August kicks off my favorite part of the year. The heat starts to fade (thankfully being in North Carolina after two years away, I can put on jackets), and a season of fun begins. My dear Danielle’s birthday, the fall season, our anniversary, my birthday, and then of course the holidays!

This season reminds me of the joy in my life, the blessings that God has given us, even in the moments where life gets difficult, I am reminded to have joy. If you know me, you know I love having fun. I struggle with anxiety and not feeling worthy, but when I choose to remind myself of who has created and called me, I find joy. This comes directly out of Philippians 4, Paul reminds the church in Philippi to be joyful because they belong to the Lord. He then says that because of this, we can have joy and not let our worries consume us; when we choose to have joy, we are a light to everyone around us.

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Don’t Let One Bad Day Define Your Story

I’ve made a ton of mistakes. You ever wake up at night and think about a time you said something you shouldn’t have, or reacted in a way you know wasn’t right? Or maybe there are things that people have said about or done to you, and you just can’t seem to find freedom? I think we all have faced moments like this, and it’s really difficult to move forward. What’s even worse is there are often people in our lives who won’t let us get away from that past, even when we have grown from it. I remember for a long time, people I went to high school with I would see occasionally through college, and even a little after graduating. It’s sometimes awkward because they still remember a version of me that has changed. We all change and grow, yet somehow, bad days can start to define who we are.

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Living Dependently on God

On the weekend of Independence Day, my dearest Danielle and I decided to get away and go camping. It was a fantastic time, we were able to connect with each other while being disconnected from distractions. As we spent time in nature, I was reminded of all the blessings in my life and how when I have fully been focused on God, the way always is much clearer. Then I began thinking about the holiday weekend. In America we celebrate the formation of our nation, through an act of independence. The thing is, that mentality has continued culturally, Americans love independence. We don’t like people telling us how to live or what to do, and that has spilled into our faith. We try to fit Jesus into the way we want Him to be in our lives, but the Bible doesn’t stress independence, it focusses on having a dependent faith.

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Use Your Influence

Last week I talked about having confidence, which is learning to see yourself the way God sees you. I hope you enjoyed my tale of auditioning to be a Chewbacca, and if you haven’t read it, go do it! Coming off of that story, as well as the idea of learning to see yourself the way God sees you, there is an important aspect that you have the power of doing. The term “influencer” is pretty much become synonymous with people on Instagram who show you the latest trends, with the intention of getting you to buy something. An influencer, influences. That’s a pretty simple statement, but it’s one that we all need to pay attention to.

Every day, we are influencing the people around us, so we can’t miss the opportunity.

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Confidence

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

In the elementary ministry I serve in, we have been talking about the idea of confidence; confidence, being defined as learning to see yourself the way God sees you. I love the way that’s defined, because I often don’t see myself the way God sees me. Whether it’s because of my past mistakes or things that have happened, or maybe it’s the enemy in my mind, I can often feel like I’m unworthy. I live with this cloud over me that I can never be good enough, but that’s simply not true. That’s a lie the enemy is trying to convince me is truth. The truth is, that I have been made in the image of God, all of us have been made in the image of God, meaning that there is great power we possess and God has placed many talents inside of us. We are not perfect, scripture says that humans were formed out of the dust, so, we’ve got some issues.

This is where confidence is key, we need to start learning to see ourselves the way God sees us.

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Journey Update: Half Way and What I’ve Learned

It’s been a little bit since I’ve posted one of these journey updates; I really like doing them because it gives me a chance to be open about where dear Danielle and I are at and some things God has been showing us. We’re about half way through this year, and it’s been interesting for sure. There was a level of wanting to go back to “normal” after the lockdown and the year that was 2020, but at the same time, there was a lot that I wanted to change and grow out of. In that mindset going into 2021, I chose the word of “faithful” as my focus for the new year. 2020 allowed for a lot of self-reflection and a chance for me to really dig into who God has made me to be. My post last week was a lot of the culmination of what I have learned, I need to remember who I am, I am a child of God; unique and different just the way I was designed. I learned that I don’t need to try and fit into what someone else wants or to push back the cemented in time version of me they still see; I just need to be me.

That’s big for me, and choosing the word faithful means that I am choosing to press into all God has for me, and focus on what he calls me into. He calls me to be a good husband to my incredible wife. He calls me to be present and spend more time meditating and listening to the word. He calls me to press into growth, to heal and let go of the past. He calls me to love everyone always, and that includes loving myself.

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Never Walk Alone

I’ll never forget the creepiest class I took at UNCG. I was in a “history of horror films” class that met for three hours every Thursday night. It was a blast, scared me to death, but it was such a blast. Sure, some parts of the class teetered on the “this is too much that I want in my mind,” but with an understanding professor, it ended up being a fantastic experience. The only bad part was, by the time the class had ended at nine, the campus was empty. It was dark and eerie, and after talking about horror, it made for a bad combination. I learned that walking to the bus pickup spot was really creepy alone, but luckily, I made a friend in the class who also went to the bus stop. After Jamal and I decided to go together, the creepy night wasn’t so bad.

It’s funny how much of a difference that made, and the same can be true with many different things as well. It helps to have a workout partner to keep you motivated. Going to the movies is a lot more fun when you can talk about what you just saw over milkshakes (Now I want milkshakes). Playing board games with a group leads to lots of laughter. While these are pretty surface level things, when it comes to more serious matters, we choose to walk alone.

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Submit: Leading When You Aren’t in Charge

I want to talk about something that makes the punk/rebel kid in me not want to talk about. The idea of submission is something that is important for all of us, something that truly allows us to lead others in the full potential we have. Before I go further, when I use the term submit or submission, I am not going to be talking about letting someone else take advantage or manipulate you. If you are being manipulated or someone is abusing power over you, that it not biblical or right in any way (I will provide resources at the end if you are in any danger. You are worth loving). When I talk about this term, I am meaning the way we can understand that there are authorities in our life that have been placed in authority for a reason. This is something that I have been learning in my current season of life, being able to submit to the authority above me. The reason why this is so important, as leaders and followers of Christ, is because God has given us spiritual authority to follow and he is our ultimate authority. When we contradict or go against the authorities he has given, we end up hurting ourselves. In 1 Peter, there is a moment in chapter 2 that speaks to this idea of submission. I definitely recommend that you read it, but I want to focus on one key verse. I Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the family of believers. Have respect for God. Honor the emperor.”

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Responsibility for All

The past few weeks for our world have been incredibly distressing. There have been mass killings, anger, and hatred from all over. In America we are in the midst of a presidential race, one in which both sides are fueled by hatred of the other, with us as citizens being caught in their crossfire. We’ve seen our own people turn on each other because of choices by sinful men. We see the media like CNN and Fox News have a constant stream of these events causing myself and others to fear, while they also push bias onto us. Our world is chaotic, it is a lost place, and it needs Jesus. I wish we lived in a world that was peaceful and we never had to struggle, but the truth is, we will never obtain that on our own. This all steams from the first sin, when Adam and Eve chose to live independently from God. That choice created a disconnect, one that separated us from God. In that, the world was introduced to sin, so God chose to send his son much later into the world. Jesus was fully man and fully God, and in so he died for us and rose again. Because of that act, we can enter back into a relationship with Christ. I hope you have made that choice, and if you have, it has left you with a responsibility. You see, while Jesus was on earth, he taught everyone he could about the word and how to act. His teachings on the way we should be, is the responsibility, and it is one we all must follow if we want to see change.

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You Make the Difference

Vulnerability moment: Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m making an impact. I love serving and do it each week because I love speaking life into others, but there are moments where I wonder if any of what I do means anything to anyone. I know that this isn’t true, when we serve others we make the difference, but it isn’t always easy to feel that way. I think the same is true for you. In your job, in your home, at the church where you volunteer; you have a hard time believing that people actually see the difference you make and the skills you bring to the table. We can feel unnoticed, wanting to be given a thank you or a simple thought from someone confirming that you do matter, but we don’t always get that. Now before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a post for me trying to get anything from, I simply am trying to be vulnerable because I think we get into places where we feel this way. We have an active enemy that is trying to twist your thoughts to make you feel worthless, powerless, and alone. I want to help you win at life because you have a creator that says you are worth it. Your life has value. You make the difference.

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